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Forgiveness or Permission? How to avoid being an “inconsiderate jerk”

April 1st, 2014

One mantra of entrepreneurs is “beg for forgiveness, don’t ask for permission.” (For example, see Mark Suster’s post and VentureHack’s post.)

But many people are afraid to ask this way, or even more extremely, they take offense to this kind of behavior. Here’s a passionate plea against this mantra:

How would you feel if your spouse cheated on you, let you know afterwards, and asked for forgiveness? Sounds like a pretty inconsiderate and jerky thing to do, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be better to ask for permission instead? Discuss what needs aren’t being met and how to make it better? Maybe figure out ways to improve the relationship as-is, maybe consider polyamory? By talking about it rather than acting first?

So are entrepreneurs just “inconsiderate jerks”, akin to cheating husbands?

The answer is: not really. In some cases, yes, but I’d like to offer a simple test. When you take your action without permission, is there a reasonable or plausible case for why the other person would find your action in their interest? You must consider the perspective of the other person, even if you don’t ask for permission first.

I fail to see how the cheating husband can pass this test. How is it possibly in his spouse’s interest for him to cheat? He is just trying to avoid the repercussions of his selfish action. You deserve the slings and arrows if you pursue this activity.

However, many entrepreneurs “bend” rules in ways that helps everyone. Google did not ask for permission to crawl everyone’s web pages, but the result benefits everyone, including web site owners, web users, advertisers and google. Google had a vision, and it would be impossible to get everyone’s permission in advance. And in theory, some might have been against it! (And a small number of newspapers and other sources have asked to have their content removed and Google obliges.) But the rest, as they say, is history.

As Venture Hack puts it:

We would rather have someone do something wrong than ask permission to do it. Or better, we would rather have someone do something right and not need permission to do it. This is the most common outcome.

So now, go build something interesting and don’t be an inconsiderate jerk!

3. et cetera

Facebook Home: Are you ready?

April 4th, 2013

Today’s launch of Home by Facebook, highlights a key mobile trend: the hardware and software through which people access the Internet through mobile devices is proliferating. Google, Facebook and others are vying to innovate and drive down prices for consumers. So mobile devices aren’t just less powerful than desktops, but the variability of capabilities, constraints and new features is *much* wider than that of desktops.

So, we live in a world where even small startups like mine, Tip or Skip, need to support many screens. How do we do it?

The answer: focus on the interaction layer. For us, that means supporting basically one simple interaction: either click “Tip”, or swipe “Skip”. Display one picture at a time.

After defining the interactions, you can write the API. The API critically tells how a potentially low-powered mobile device exchanges information with a super-charged backend. Once you have an API, you can split up the front-end and back-end work.

On the front-end, you have to build multiple clients. Start with HTML5, because it works OK in most places and you can iterate the product quickly. But soon, you’ll need to also slog out native iOS and Android apps. Luckily, mobile users expect apps to have simple functionality and to use standard interface elements. This speeds development. (And don’t forget to think about how to market your app.)

On the back-end, you probably have a lot of work to do. We’ve built a social network where lots of interactions are shared with thousands of people. Handling this is no small feat, and I have awesome respect for what companies like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have done.

But have no doubt: although LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have complex backends, their basic architecture is pretty similar to ours, and much of the front-end work is comparable.

A pro-tip: watch out for issues where concerns of the front-end and back-end collide. For example, scrolling through lots of images at once or providing “seamless video.” In these examples, technical limitations of mobile devices drive new concerns for the backend that the desktop web never exposed. In the future, I hope to blog more thoughts about how to solve these kinds of problems and what enabling technologies they will spawn. But for now, suffice it to say that these issues are at the cutting edge of mobile architecture.

Finally, what does this say for engineering talent? For backend folks, there continue to be robust growth for engineers (especially for the very, very best). But the demand for great mobile talent who are obsessed with user experience is extreme far outstrips supply, since we are just at the beginning phases of mapping and creating all the meaningful mobile interactions that need to be developed.

The biggest piece, that no one yet has solved, is the interaction layer. The top mobile companies are in various stages of developing this infrastructure, and this is where the most valuable work is being done. And out of this work, some interesting enabling technology will emerge that will add even more fuel to the development of mobile apps.

If you focus on a strong engagement layer, you will rapidly be able to exploit these new mobile opportunities like Facebook Home. For what it’s worth, Tip or Skip is well integrated through our own interaction layer so we should be in good position if Facebook Home takes off.

How about your mobile apps – are they ready for Facebook Home?

3. et cetera

Add a Tip or Skip widget to your site!

December 14th, 2012

You can play my tips (ie, Tips.by/mike) right here is this blog post:

If you want something like this on your site, just modify a width/height (gotcha: they appear in two places in the code) and replace the user=mike with your tips.by/username. Grab the code and go!

<iframe width='600px' height='450px' frameborder='0' style='border:0' scrolling='no' src='http://embed.tiporskip.com/plugin.php?width=600&height=450&user=mike'>

Next up, I’m going to try to integrate the widget into my site more permanently. Enjoy!

1. technology, 3. et cetera , , , , ,

Stop SOPA & PIPA

January 18th, 2012

We must stop SOPA and PIPA, two proposed pieces of legislation that would serious undermine our freedom of expression.

If these laws pass, essentially anyone would have the right to shut down my companies web site, www.tips.by, merely because it hosts shared content on an overseas web site. I am part of a tech community that is innovating and creating new jobs.

As a father of four children, I oppose this legislation that further criminalizes sharing. I am pro-sharing.

As a founder of e-thePeople, I think that sharing of information is the cornerstone of democracy. It’s called the first amendment, because it is the fundamental right that protects all others.

Sign Google’s petition here: https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

Spread the word on Facebook & Twitter. Black out your profile image too before the government does.

1. technology, 2. politics, 3. et cetera , ,

What entrepreneurs can learn from Christopher Columbus

October 11th, 2010

I think Christopher Columbus day is really a celebration of discovery. I also believe that the goal of entrepreneurs is to discover a repeatable business. So, what can entrepreneurs learn from Christopher Columbus?

1. The most transformational ideas are crazy. I mean, reach the far east by going *west*?
2. The funding for most grand discoveries often comes from angels, who do so for commercial reasons principally
3. You will probably discover something different than what you originally set out to find (and it may take awhile before you figure out what it is that you’ve discovered!)
4. Even when you find something amazing, you won’t necessarily end up rich

Draw your own conclusions!

1. technology, 3. et cetera , , ,

Team players

July 8th, 2010

I really liked this interview because Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh seem to care more about winning championships than personal glory. Here’s the interview:

Actually, it reminds me most about pickup ball in NYC. Pickup ball had a few key rules to determine who could play. First, winners stay on, losers leave. Second, one person had “next,” and was responsible for forming a team to play the winners. Third, anyone who wasn’t playing or included on a “next” team could become the leader of claim the next “next” team, and so on.

The interesting dynamic is that sometimes a good player would forgo the opportunity to play “next” because they preferred to sit out a little longer in order to play with their friends and form a really great team of their own choosing. In the long run, this strategy could lead to a winning streak that yielded more court time despite the longer wait to start.

In effect, Wade and Bosh have claimed “next.” And heaven help the other teams in the NBA if LeBron joins too!

3. et cetera , ,

Good on paper!

June 23rd, 2010

Mark Suster (a former entrepreneur who is now a VC at GRP Partners) writes this post describing the background of his ideal candidate for his VC positon:

computer science undergrad from MIT (or any other great school), 2-years at McKinsey but no more than that (I love the analytical framework that the top strategy consulting firms provide. BCG, Bain, LEK – they’re all great), a few years at a start-up or a few years somewhere like Microsoft, Google, Amazon or Apple. MBA fine, but not required.

Compare that profile to my background: Computer science at Princeton, 3 years at Oliver Wyman (top strategy consultancy to the financial services), Fulcrum Analytics/E-thePeople.org (e.g., start ups), Ph.D. at Stanford. Looks pretty good, at least on paper, right? Right?!? :)

3. et cetera ,

Inspired teaching

June 17th, 2010

Using YouTube, this one man has become the most watched educator in the world. His story is pretty neat, as is his pedagogical philosophy. Doesn’t hurt that he appears to be incredibly smart and curious. I plan to check out some of the instructional videos, and see if it would be good for my kids!

Enjoy!

1. technology, 3. et cetera , , ,

The connection between Elana Kagan and Young MC

May 10th, 2010

Break it down, fellas! Malcom Gladwell criticized my alum mater asking “Why are Hunter’s results so disappointing?” Hunter students have IQ scores three and a half standard deviations above the mean and are given the best classroom resources, so they are not as distinguished as they should be: “Although most of our study participants are successful and fairly content with their lives and accomplishments,” the authors conclude, “there are no superstars . . . and only one or two familiar names.” Thank you, Obama, for providing yet another piece of evidence against this unfair criticism.

First, I present to you, Elena Kagan, Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. Is that a big enough superstar for you, Malcom?

Elena Kagan with Obama

Second, I present to you Young MC. Watch this video to be reminded how great he is. No gimmicks just hip hop. Bust a move!

Want to see more Hunter superstars? I rest my case!

2. politics, 3. et cetera , , , , , ,

How Facebook will change the face of the Internet

April 23rd, 2010

Facebook made some huge announcements yesterday.

At its core, Facebook’s unique capability is identity warranting, i.e., proving that a person is who she says she is. This proof comes in three ways. First, Facebook profiles have an enormous amount of personal information that is difficult to create without intimate knowledge of the person. Second, the network of friends interlinked provide social proof that the profile is indeed who she says she is. Third, Facebook has information about interactions among these real people. The most important of these interactions are group photos, which firmly establish individuals and who they associate with.

With this core in place, Facebook is now unveiling the scaffolding necessary for every site to be social. Imagine if you can always see who the real people who are visiting a site at the same time as you. Imagine if your newsfeed on Facebook contained the highlights of everything your friends are doing anywhere, online or offline. Within five years, these visions will be so real you will not remember what our current anonymous Internet looks like.

Many individuals and sites may want to resist. This change is scary, no doubt! But I see it as inevitable because the immediate benefits to individuals and sites far outweigh the immediate costs. It is unclear whether the longer-term risks are worth it or not, but the short-term economics are too powerful in my opinion to resist.

3. et cetera

Debi Nova

April 10th, 2010

Maria and I had the pleasure of seeing the debut of Debi Nova’s new solo act in NYC last night. Debi is a sister of our neighbor, which is why we were invited to the event, but more relevantly she backed up Ricki Martin and the Black Eyed Peas. I am posting two videos here, the first one professionally produced for MTV and the other one captured by me with my iphone on Thursday night night. Enjoy!

Live video captured on my iPhone – pretty nice quality!

3. et cetera

iPad – so crazy it just might work

April 2nd, 2010

Here’s a great analysis of the iPad, by the former chief evangelist of Apple and famous VC, Guy Kawasaki:

“The first five million will be sold in a heartbeat,” said Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was a marketing executive at Apple in the 1980s. “But let’s see: you can’t make a phone call with it, you can’t take a picture with it, and you have to buy content that before now you were not willing to pay for. That seems tough to me.”

I find the argument completely persuasive.

Except that it ignores the Steve Jobs reality distortion field. His brilliance is turning everything on its head. People will love the content *more* because they have to pay for what was previously free. People will love it because it has *less* freedom than other computers. Perhaps people will particularly love it because it does *not* have a phone or camera.

Whether Kawasaki or Jobs is right, I am fascinated to watch how the iPad experiment unfolds.

3. et cetera

We are all connected

March 25th, 2010

Haunting, new age, and especially appropriate for this blog. Enjoy!

1. technology, 3. et cetera

The “Failing Fast” controversy

March 12th, 2010

Mark Suster wrote a provocative post about a common phrase in the entrepreneurial community called “Failing Fast.” He says:

Failing fast “is so self centered it winds me up. Tell that to the person who wrote you the $50,000 of their hard earned money and entrusted you to try your best. Fail fast? How does your brother-in-law feel about that?

Fail fast = quit and give up easy = spaghetti against the wall = no clear strategy going into your business = no ability / willingness to try and pivot as market conditions change = easy way out…”

First, his tirade smacks of hypocrisy. Does Mark re-up on all his portfolio companies when they are having trouble getting traction, or does he triage his portfolio and let the losers fail? No, each company in his VC portfolio is like strand of spaghetti and his strategy is to have one or two of them stick. Like all successful VCs, he plays the gorilla game and makes all of his profits by doubling down on a few winners and folding quickly on the losers.

Second, he misconstrues the point. His second paragraph is way off base. Failing fast = learning and pivoting. Think Odeo + Twitter. Were the initial investors of Odeo happy or unhappy that Jack Dorsey’s decision? Failing fast has nothing to do with abandoning your fiduciary duties to your investors. This is a serious and false accusation to make of entrepreneurs who talk about “failing fast.”

Third, I’ll admit that “failing fast” sounds bad. But that is on purpose, to be intentionally provocative. When we look at successful startups like Amazon, Google, Ebay, etc., their success looks obvious and easy. Revisionist history makes the rise to glory appear like smooth sailing. To combat this myth, “failing fast” focuses on the risks and, more importantly, the learning that startups and entrepreneurs must do. The unit of output for a startup is validated learning. You have a general theory, based on a set of hypotheses. You test them in order to reduce your risk as quickly possible, and pivot as necessary.

Mark’s idea about “fast” is wrong too. It isn’t about folding the company quickly; it’s about failing (and then pivoting) from smaller tests way before the whole thing is doomed.

Fundamentally, Mark misses the point. Of course, you can learn from success and that is preferred route. It is just very rare. Failures large and small are a reality, but the real question is how you deal with them. The real point is this: the opposite of success isn’t failure, it’s mediocrity.

So what do I tell “my brother-in-law who invested $50,000″? I share my hypotheses and the results of my experiments with him. And hopefully SocialFeet is more like a Twitter and not like an Odeo, but in either event, we’re along for the ride together.

1. technology, 3. et cetera

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